Pollution vs solution

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Unless you’re some sort of hermit living in a cave you’d be aware that climate change is already adversely affecting this planet called Earth. From increased severe weather events causing floods and droughts to rising sea levels, the unprecedented consequences of putting too much carbon into the atmosphere could undo much if not all human progress.

The irony is that most of the progress humans have enjoyed over the last century is a result of an industrial revolution largely based on oil, which just so happens to be one of the main contributors to our potential undoing in the form of anthropogenic climate change.

There’s no doubt that western civilization is badly addicted to oil, with pretty much everything these days relying on a huge supply of the carcinogenic substance. Unfortunately we’re now using more oil than is being found, which doesn’t just mean additional pain at the pump, it means the industry is looking to extract the crude substance from places previously thought inaccessible.

Without doubt there’s an increased risk of accidents like the Deepwater Horizon with the advent of more deep sea drilling for oil. Claims of increased safety in an inherently unsafe industry can only go so far and to justify the increased risk, proponents of the oil industry say we simply cannot afford to needlessly throw the possibility for jobs down the drain. They believe the economic benefit from pushing the fossil fuel envelope outweighs any environmental concerns.

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Oil might be getting harder to find and extract but there’s certainly enough in reserve to cook the planet many times over. Why on earth would we turn up the heat you might ask? After all humans are reasonable creatures and we’ve been aware of the potential for adverse effects of climate change since the 1970’s. Why can’t we just fix the problem, like we did with halogenated ozone depleting substances?

One reason is that the oil and gas cartel actively works to inhibit any solution from being implemented, greasing the palms of politicians and spending millions on propaganda campaigns to promote their unsustainable industry. However another problem is a religious one, whereby fundamentalists imagine that only God can cause floods and droughts and only the maker could end the world. 76% of Republicans in the US believe the end times are coming anyway, so why would they bother to do anything to mitigate climate change?

For starters, climate change is the only predicted “doomsday” event that has any real scientific merit to it. In fact all bona fide scientists who study climate change confirm mankind is adversely affecting the environment; it is only the degree to which climate change will adversely impact on humanity that’s in question.

But don’t despair, there’s another way to progress humanity while saving the environment at the same time. It’s called renewable energy and uses the sun and wind to provide the power we require to continue living in the manner we’ve become accustomed to.

Not convinced mankind can save itself by using green technology? Ponder this; along with it being better for the environment, the University of Massachusetts found the renewable energy sector creates more than twice as many jobs as the same amount of investment put into polluting fossil fuel industries. In my opinion that fact makes the argument for increased oil exploration to create jobs rather redundant. Most developed nations are struggling with high unemployment and creating jobs in the renewable energy sector is a way to ensure economic prosperity. It’s also a way of reducing, if not halting, the decline of western civilization.

We must utilize the solutions available to us before it’s too late. We have a choice between dangerous oil and gas developments that already kill thousands in workplace accidents each year and renewable energy, which has resulted in relatively no deaths at all. It’s a choice between increasing environmental pollution, to the extent that people become ill and die, or harnessing nature to provide all the clean energy we could ever require. The choice is also between having domestic energy security and fighting more wars in foreign lands for oil.

Clearly we should be conserving the environment for future generations; therefore the only solution is renewable energy.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Not convinced mankind can save itself by using green technology?
    green technology and the people promoting it … ignore energy invested on energy returned.

    Dam right we can’t save ourselves

    http://wildancestors.blogspot.co.nz/2013/05/near-term-extinction.html?spref=fb

    Sunday, May 5, 2013
    Near Term Extinction
    By Richard Adrian Reese

    The majority of modern society is clustered together in the hope and optimism pavilion, taking deep tokes on the bong of pleasure-filled fantasies (cough!). At the other end of the spectrum are the Near Term Extinction (NTE) folks. They profess absolute certainty that climate change will be the final chapter in the human story. Our current mode of living will disintegrate by 2030, and a few scientists, like Malcolm Light, predict that all life on Earth will be extinct by 2050. Ecology professor Guy McPherson is a primary spokesperson for NTE.

    The NTE thinkers point to many genuine problems that are intensifying every day. They describe a number of “positive feedbacks,” where one problem stimulates the worsening of other problems, accelerating the overall pace of destruction more and more. A small disturbance can trigger a large avalanche. They chastise the big name climate activism celebrities for failing to realize the actual risks these feedbacks, and, consequently, for preaching sermons tainted with false hope.

    Rapid heating will destroy agriculture, release fabulous amounts of methane, and blindside every ecosystem on the planet. The bright white polar ice caps are quite reflective, and bounce away a lot of incoming solar heat, but they are melting and shrinking. Oceans may become so acidic that only jellyfish remain.

    The burning of fossil fuels will fade with the demise of industry, so less incoming solar energy will be blocked by layers of pollution, speeding the warming process even more. When the power grid dies, the pumps will quit at 440+ nuclear power plants. So, the cooling ponds for spent fuel rods will evaporate, the rods will burn, and ionized radiation will poison the planet. And so on.

    Acknowledging these sobering ideas is necessary for those who wish to be present in reality. It is well within the realm of possibility that their predictions will turn out to be correct — but not 100 percent certain, with a double your money back guarantee. We’ve never destroyed a planet before, so our understanding of this sad process remains primitive.

    Many members of the NTE community are highly intelligent, very well informed, and ruthlessly skeptical of every mainstream idea. This combination of attributes does not result in a merry band of giggly bliss ninnies. They comprehend the existence of enormous problems. At the same time, they also comprehend that humankind is largely ignoring these problems. It’s a heartbreaking disconnect. The great majority of people simply fail to perceive the presence of great danger, because their lives still seem normal, today.

    Extinction would neatly solve every single one of our problems, and would be a great relief for the family of life. We were certain to go extinct at some point in the future anyway. Uff! But what if there are still some humans alive 100 years from now? Humans, insects, and bacteria are exceptionally adaptable, and a portion of them may have an extended future. Because of that possibility, I do this work. The NTE folks shrug and label me normal (still asleep). So be it.

    I’m very happy that I’m not going to live to see the end of the collapse (I hope). What the survivors, if any, choose to do is entirely beyond my control. I am not responsible for the decisions they make, but I am responsible for doing what I can to help them understand their history, predicament, and options. Nothing can change until ideas change. So, one of the most essential occupations for those living now is to become idea mongers. This is a path of great power, and there are Help Wanted signs all over the place.

    Before we call it a day, let’s jump in our Hummer and take a quick tour of the NTE neighborhood. Their mosque is called Nature Bats Last, Guy McPherson’s blog. When you have a month or two with little to do, go here and visit all the links. You’ll learn a lot about a wide variety of subjects. (The links below are just a tiny sample of the information available on the following issues.)

    Global Warming. Climate scientists have been doing a good job of underestimating the rate at which carbon is accumulating in the atmosphere, and raising the planet’s temperature. New and improved models generated by the UN in 2010 predicted a rise of 5° C by 2050. Some believe that warming of 4° to 6° C results in a dead planet, and that this could happen in a decade.

    Melting Permafrost. Melting permafrost will release enormous amounts of greenhouse gases. There is also underwater permafrost, and it too is melting and off gassing methane.

    Tundra fires. Arctic summers are getting warmer and dryer, and the carbon-rich tundra soils readily burn when dry. Fire actually burns up the soil, exposing the permafrost below to warmer temperatures. On the surface of the burned land, dark ash absorbs more solar heat, melting the permafrost faster.

    Peat Fires. Warmer, dryer weather is drying out peat lands, which contain one third of the world’s soil carbon. Peat fires are often ignited by lightning or passing wildfires, and they are difficult or impossible to extinguish. Some burn for years, or even centuries. In 2010 there were huge peat fires in Russia.

    Ocean Acidification. One third of carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by the oceans, which is increasing their levels of acidity. Plankton in the ocean provides 50 percent of the oxygen in the atmosphere. This oceanic oxygen production is now six percent less than it was 30 years ago. Growing acidity is harmful to marine life and coral reefs.

    Ionized Radiation. There are about 440 nuclear power plants in the world, and they generate lots of radioactive waste that will be extremely toxic for a very long time. These wastes are stored in cooling ponds, a short-term solution. There is no long-term solution. Extended power outages will allow the cooling ponds to evaporate, at which point the fuel rods will burn, and spew radiation to the four winds.

    Oceanic Deoxygenation. Climate change is stratifying oceanic waters, and warming the upper layers. This will reduce the dissolved oxygen in the water, leading to the expansion of dead zones. Some regions have experienced significant deoxygenation over the last 50 years, and many expect this problem to worsen, possibly for the next thousand years.

    Atmospheric Deoxygenation. Levels of oxygen in the atmosphere are declining. Three hundred million years ago, the air was 30 percent oxygen. Ancient dragonflies had four-foot wingspans. Today it’s between 19 and 21 percent, and 12 to 17 percent in urban areas. When it gets to 6 or 7 percent, we cannot survive. Oxygen is consumed when carbon is burned.

    Methane Catastrophe. This report, written by Malcolm Light, is not intended for the general reader. The first paragraph includes this jarring sentence: “This process of methane release will accelerate exponentially, release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere and lead to the demise of all life on earth before the middle of this century.”

    • Sobering stuff. I’m a little confused though – is your position that because the scientifically possible worst case is so bad we should not try? Surely the only way NTE is guaranteed is if we stop trying to avoid it. Or stop trying to try, since we could certainly be trying harder….maybe its easier to embrace our doom but I choose not to. If that means I’m asleep, so be it.

      • Hi Sam
        You asked – is your position that because the scientifically possible worst case is so bad we should not try?
        Basically for the past 14 years my position has been that we are absolutely 100% fucked, so the smartest thing to do is stop having children.
        But people do not want the truth, so we will hit this wall at 100 mph with a child under each arm.
        I’m not anti children, I’m just anti them suffering.

        • Thanks for the reply Robert. I recall reading something by Dave Sim (a comic book author) who basically described humanity as being trapped in an accelerating vehicle with the doors welded shut while most people don’t even realise that we’re all in the back seat and there’s no steering wheel. That would have been around 14 years ago actually. I generally agreed with the metaphor at the time but I do see a developing effort to get people into the front seat and get the bricks off the accelerator. Others are trying to manufacture some sort of improvised steering.

          Will it be enough? I don’t know. Would it help if we weren’t having to fight the entrenched interests at the same time? Definitely. Becoming a parent a couple of years ago has strengthened my determination to try by an order of magnitude.

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